Erina Harris’s first full-length work is a brilliant questioning of traditional forms ranging from the fairy tale to the sonnet. The collection is composed of two serial poems, or “Books,” within which the poems build upon each other to create their own careful language. Book One uses the concept of childhood to consider humanity’s relationships with places, animals and our own senses. Book Two stretches the idea of elegy, working to express grief through a community of mourners, while lamenting the suicide of a close friend. Throughout the collection Harris uses rhyme in innovative and unexpected ways. Ten years in the writing, The Stag Head Spoke is a polished and highly original work, a debut collection like few others.
“In the distance”
A grey cat yowls,
yanking caught paw to get it back from the frozen track.
Its spine, a bristling archway its sound slowly crosses
in low growl, a memory inherited
is climbing on to the cry of an infant.
He is parted from his sound. It enters sky which carries it
further and someplace lays it down.
The grey cat beside the train track
writhing. His free paw bloodies a scratched slat.
Steel track in place beside the cat
in grit his deepening. He bears down,
under sky tilted jaw at the slit, begins
with teeth at paw,then a second time cries to it.
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Down the Rabbit Hole (Al Rempel, ARC, 03/02/2015)
“In her first book of poetry, The Stag Head Spoke, Erina Harris’ dark and complex verse takes her readers down a rabbit hole. Harris removes our footing; what we catch in terms of characterization, or setting, or conclusion, what sense we make from syntax, comes through collage and glimpse and echo. Her expert play at language, reminding me at times of Dennis Lee’s work, acts like — to modify Lewis Carroll’s metaphor — setae or bristles on an earthworm.”
Review (Jessica Rose, Room Magazine, 01/12/2014)
“With careful precision, Erina Harris toiled over and tinkered with The Stag Head Spoke for ten years, finely honing her craft as a poet. The result of this quest for perfection is an innovative and stunning debut that is steeped in nostalgia, but is never sickeningly sweet.”
"E Martin Nolan on Erina Harris: The Stag Head Spoke" (E Martin Nolan, Lemon Hound, 10/11/2014)
"Every poet controls language, but few poets can create Harris’ energy level, and if they do, few are able to contain it with such deftness. This is world-class poetry of the highest order. Harris has upturned the tables of poetry, and reset them exquisitely, all while digging deep into the reader’s heart. Buy this book, but be ready for it."
"Simpson's fragments of lanuage rewarding" (Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press, 23/08/2014)
“A strange and powerful debut, a cryptic and mythic suite of poems resembling surreal theatre…. Eclectic and ambitious, The Stag Head Spoke announces the arrival of an impressive talent.”
BookThug's Best Reads 2014 (Authors' Edition) (John, BookThug, 05/01/2015)
Julie Joosten, author of Light Light, listed The Stag Head Spoke as one of five books from 2014 that deeply affected her.
"A Species of Apprenticeship": Why it Took 10 Years to Publish The Stag Head Spoke (Literary Press Group of Canada, 07/07/2014)
"The Stag Head Spoke is a highly polished debut, with a sophistication of form and language rarely seen in a first collection."
Ready to Launch: Buckrider Books (Kris Bone, The Town Crier, 21/04/2014)
"Harris’s poetry was haunting and highly refined. Drawing on the traditions of a wide variety of forms (such as the sonnet and the fairy tale) to explore rhyme in new ways, Harris has created an atmospheric set of poems, delivered in an even yet ethereal tone."
Time to taste test new lit (Martin DeGroot, TheRecord.com, 12/04/2014)
“For people who have been involved in the local arts scene for ten years or more, the name that stands out here is Erina Harris, who began her writing career here in Waterloo, and who made a lasting contribution to creative enterprise in this region through her work as a dedicated, creative, and energetic Arts and Culture Coordinator for the City of Kitchener.”
Most Anticipated: Spring 2014 Poetry Preview (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 30/01/2014)
"The Stag Head Spoke, by Erina Harris, is a decade in the making and described as 'part Mother Goose, part Anne Carson.'"
Source material (Marshall Ward, Waterloo Chronicle, 18/03/2014)
“‘Enfantasques’ means ‘child-like forms,’ and this first book uses a number of forms common to children’s literature — the fairy tale, song forms, nonsense verse — as a way to use the idea of childhood and nonsense to disrupt sense. Or, in other words, to consider questions about the adult world from the nostalgic and imagined place of our unreachable childhoods.”
Interview on Writer's Block (Emily Ursuliak and Sabrina Uswak, CJSW 90.9 FM, 17/02/2015)